Blood Orange Margarita

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It’s that perfect time of the year where citrus is at its absolute peak, and I stock my fruit bowl with clementines, limes, and grapefruit, my absolute favorite.  Although grapefruits are essentially available year round, January-February seems to be the time they get that very sweet, intense grapefruit flavor.  I usually end up eating so much of them that I get blisters in my mouth.  I would probably eat even more, except that I absolutely hate peeling/cutting/spooning out grapefruit, so that keeps me within my boundaries a little.  If anyone knows an easy way of dealing with grapefruit, I’m all ears, because it’s honestly the biggest pain.

Equal to grapefruit on my list of Citrus I Get Too Excited About is the blood orange.  I tend to forget about it every single year until the day I walk into the grocery and have the good fortune of spotting dark red oranges out of the corner of my eye.  I then buy at least a couple pounds of them, because I can think of endless ways to incorporate blood oranges into my favorite recipes.  Plus, their season is so short that you have to take advantage of the opportunity to buy multiple while you have the chance.

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If you’ve never experienced a blood orange, I highly encourage you to head to your local grocery, especially if you have a food co-op or health food shop that frequently carries seasonal ingredients, and buy at least a couple.  I know the name doesn’t necessarily sound appetizing, but the blood orange is one of the most beautiful fruits in my opinion.  The flavor is tart like a regular orange, but has sweeter berry-like tones.  My favorite part of blood oranges is how versatile they are – while they are perfectly delicious on their own, I prefer to take advantage of their beauty to use them in salads, desserts, and with a splash of tequila, because I’m fun like that.

My first round of blood oranges was used in an almond-blood orange cake that had a truly delicious, fresh flavor but lacked a textural component I was looking for.  Not to worry, I will continue to practice making this cake, even if I have to use regular oranges until next year…

I also threw some segments into a salad that I made for dinner, and of course I ate one or two on their own, but then I realized that blood oranges were made for alcohol.  The tart-sweet taste would blend perfectly with a little vodka or gin or tequila (!!!) so I decided to go for it, because life is short, and margaritas are good.  Plus, I was looking for a simple Valentine’s Day recipe that was not couple-y (because single, yo), but one that would also have the pretty V-Day colors I was looking for.  How fitting that blood oranges happen to show up in late January-early February, right as I’m trying to think of a drink to make for my Galentine’s celebration!  Yay for love and female friendships!

Also!  Whilst walking out of a grocery store alone at 4:30 p.m. on a Friday night carrying only a large bottle of tequila, I discovered one of the ultimate forms of self-loathing.  If you’re going to partake in these types of activities, I’d recommend also grabbing a bag of tortilla chips, some salsa, and maybe a puzzle, because it’ll earn you less judgmental stares, and it may even make you feel better about trying margarita recipes by yourself when you should be out socializing with friends.

Are you ready for some margarita action?!

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Further notes: If you can’t find blood oranges, because they are unavailable or not in season, go ahead and use regular oranges or another citrus if you’d prefer.  The recipe is perfectly versatile!

P.S. I chose my tequila based off of a list of “Best Cheap Tequilas” I found on the interweb while in the middle of the liquor aisle at my grocery store.  (In Nevada, they sell liquor at grocery stores, which I guess is shocking to some.  Born and raised Nevada-girl does not understand why this is surprising).  Use whichever tequila you have laying around the house, or go for a silver tequila made with 100% agave – just stay away from Jose.

P.P.S. How fun would it be to have a Mexican-food-night-Valentine’s-Day?!  If you don’t want to rush through dinner crowds, you could make some delicious carnitas (or order in), and have ruby-red, romantic margaritas with your lovie (or girlies or dog or….).  If you decide to have a Valentine’s Day-girl’s night, pls invite me, and I’ll make a big pitcher of blood orange margaritas to share.  Just promise me no weird anti-V-Day hooliganism, because I’ve already been to a singles party before, and I don’t need that in my life again.

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Unfucktheworld by Angel Olsen

Homemade Apple Cider

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Apparently at the tender age of 21, I have succumbed to the eternal tiredness accompanied with socializing until midnight and drinking 1 glass of sangria + a single gin and tonic.  This past weekend consisted of both of those events at a Friendsgiving celebration, where a few friends and I enjoyed a hodgepodge of family recipes along with a distracted game of Cards Against Humanity and a slew of various spirit glasses.  While Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday, I’m starting to realize the value of a successful Friendsgiving, which in my experience is pretty similar to regular Thanksgiving without the pressure of telling your great-aunt and four second-cousins your life plans post-college, and also, you typically don’t have to talk about the disappointing political climate (except not always, but that can be solved with a simple “Sangria anyone?!”.  I know how to please the crowd).

Typical to Sara Lynn antics, I provided the aforementioned sangria and a pumpkin pie with whipped cream, which after a few hours, turned into a weapon of mass destruction as it was flung throughout the kitchen, into hair, and onto faces while I ducked under the breakfast bar with my wine glass.  Once whipped cream starts flinging, this chick is out.  However, the pumpkin pie was amazing and enjoyed for breakfast before work the next day.  As for the sangria, a twist on the classic using apple cider for a autumnal flavor, it needs to be worked on slightly.  It was delicious, but it also reminded me of bubblegum which just isn’t really my style.  Don’t worry…I’ll keep working on it for winter holidays.

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After a weekend of socializing with friends and working, I came down with a bad chest cold that I can just tell is brewing into something horrid.  Luckily, I got my ass into the doctor ASAP, and hopefully the antibiotics they provided will knock this thing out before it even develops, because again, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday!  I want to enjoy my family time even if it does make me evaluate my life plans and strive to keep my mouth zipped when certain President-elects are brought up.  Also, I have a ton of pie dough to make before Wednesday, and this hacking out my lungs thing is making me want to do nothing but pass out in my bed with a heating pad suctioned to my chest.  Yes, I like to feel sorry for myself, but I did work today and take a test and do a presentation, so I feel like I deserve a little credit here.  I’d probably whine a little more, but I am hugging some warm apple cider and watching Full House reruns, so it can’t be all bad, right?

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And that leads to the apple cider.  As I mentioned before, my parents just moved here and have an abundance of apple trees on their property which equates to me having fresh apples in my house constantly.  Pros: beautiful, freshly picked apples all the time!!!  Cons: I will never be able to eat another apple pie with store-bought apples again.  How come homemade apples are so much sweeter and flavorful?  Anyways, I found myself with pounds on pounds of fresh apples, and that is how this apple cider recipe came to fruition.

Now, you can make this apple cider recipe on the stove which will take a couple of hours.  I chose to prepare it in a slow cooker so I could pop it on before class and come home to a cinnamony-appley-smelling goodness when I came home.  Either way, this recipe is fool-proof and will taste absolutely delicious.

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*If you are using orchard apples, you may notice that the cores look a little funky every once in a while – yay organic!!  I chose to cut these parts off, but if the cores look okay, don’t worry about removing them.  You can even leave the seeds in – they’ll all get strained out in the end.

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Flightless Bird, American Mouth by Iron & Wine

Ginger Old Fashioned

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Hello, my name is Sara Lynn, and I am a young NYC man living in the year 1958 a 20-something woman who loves Old Fashioned cocktails.  But you can call me Don Draper.

Today, I will be sharing my favorite Old Fashioned recipe, because it’s my birthday, and I will be celebrating with Bourbon, Angostura bitters, and orange peel all night long if I have my way.  However, I’ll try to sneak a lemon drop or Manhattan in, so I can feel like Carrie Bradshaw.  I may have an identity crisis at the end of the night, but so be it.  Tonight is for celebration and cake and drinks with my friends!

Last summer while I was in London, the beers and ciders became kind of mundane after my 200th IPA.  One night, a group of (other) Nevada students and I went to a bar down the road from our dorm where I asked the bartender if they could mix cocktails.  Ignoring the slightly dubious look in the recent high-school-grad-of-a-bartender’s eyes, I asked for an old fashioned, which he then responded with, “What’s in it?”.  It was then that I learned that old fashioneds are American cocktails, and that England is strictly for wine, beer, and cider.  Message received.

I had an old fashioned when I flew home to the states, and while London is my absolute favorite place in the world, I’d really love if they would learn the finesse of an old fashioned.  (Or, if I just ended up at the wrong spot, if a local could recommend a good place for some whiskey).  However, since the first time I tried an old fashioned, I’ve been obsessed and haven’t looked back.

My first old fashioned was made with Bulleit bourbon and served out of a Tigger coffee mug around Christmas time while it snowed outside.  That’s a true story.  I’ve come a long way since then, but I can’t say that scenario won’t reoccur.  I am in college after all, and sometimes Disney coffee mugs are the only vehicle for alcoholic beverages.  However, I still do not own whiskey mugs, so discount water glasses bought at Home Goods will have to do for now.  The classic old fashioned is made with sugar cubes, Angostura bitters, citrus peel, ice, and Bourbon.  However, with the warmer weather, I decided to twist it up with some grenadine and Ginger Ale to make it a little more summery.  I love slow-sipping drinks, and I definitely think this one is perfect for an outdoor BBQ.

If you are more of a traditionalist, you can make the recipe the classic way without the Ginger Ale, maraschino cherries, and grenadine.  Or, if you like a drier drink, you can sub Club Soda for Ginger Ale.  If you’re having a party, you can leave these ingredients out for people to make their own Old Fashioned cocktails while you cook or talk with your friends. Old Fashioneds are forgiving and appealing to most cocktail-drinkers, so I consider them the perfect party drink.

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As a bday present to me, please make this Old Fashioned tonight (or order one at your favorite bar 😉 )

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Dreaming by Seapony

 

Blackberry-Mint Limeade

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Summer has now officially approached in Reno.  In my Vegas-days, I used to loathe summer and its dry heat that would exceed far past the low hundreds.  Now living in Reno, the weather is a gamble, meaning I can be a little more friendly towards the summer months depending on the day.  For instance, yesterday the high was 75*F, but tomorrow could be 105*.  Luckily, I’m not too far from SF, which pretty much always has a low chill and Tahoe, which may be warm, but at least you can cool off in the melted-snow water.  However, I’m a huge fan of BBQs, as I’ve mentioned in the past, and even though I’m working as both a marketing intern and barista, I’m taking this summer as an opportunity to eat plenty of good food, explore new Northern Nevada attractions, and not be in school for the first time in 3 years.  Plus, my birthday is in July, so that’s always something I look forward to!  I’m also stoked to try out some new BBQ recipes, starting off with a twist on classic summer Lemonade.  Hello blackberry-mint limeade!

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When it comes to the lemonade-limeade debate, I wholeheartedly lean towards the limeade side.  Actually, I’m not really sure there is such a debate, but if there were I would always go Team Limeade.  Now that it’s summer, I’ve decided to try out my own variations on limeade (and maybe even lemonade, we’ll see…), and I thought the perfect way to start off the limeade experiment would be to use a berry that’s not as highly recognized as its berry counterparts.  I love how shiny and succulent blackberries are, and when they’re mixed into a limeade, it makes this beautiful fuchsia hue that would perfectly complement a BBQ.  Also, I added mint, because I was feeling fancy.

Before I share the recipe, I will first start off with a confession, because I’m not perfect, and I’ll readily admit that all the time in most circumstances, such as this one.  For this recipe, I decided to use already bottled limeade.  *gasp*, I know.  From someone who really goes out of her way to not use prepackaged stuff, this may be slightly shocking.  However, I can already find delicious, sweet, fresh-tasting limeade in the juice aisle at my local grocery, and I own no type of juicer whatsoever, so prebottled limeade it was.  On the other hand, if you are one who feels so inclined to make their own limeade, I’ve found a recipe from a trusted source with good reviews here.

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This limeade is refreshing and easily adaptable if you’d like to try another berry or herb.  I prefer my limeade sweeter, so I use more syrup, but if you like yours a little more tart, I’d use less syrup or even muddle some blackberries and mint in the bottom of your glass and just use a tiny bit of syrup.  Also, I used 3 mint leaves in my original recipe, and I found that the mint was very strong.  I’d recommend using only 2 mint leaves so the blackberry flavors are noticeable.  The mint can be very overpowering, but you can always add some straight to your drink if you want more of that flavor later!

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XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: The Other Woman by Devendra Banhart

Espresso Hot Chocolate with Vanilla Whipped Cream

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You can ask anyone in my family about my hot chocolate preferences, and they will tell you that I am a hot chocolate snob.  No really, that’s a thing, and I am part of the demographic.  When I was really little, my dad would make me hot chocolate every night with Ovaltine.  If it was too hot outside, he would make me chocolate milk.  I called it “brown milk” and I specifically remember asking for it while my parents read me my books.  So naturally, the first time I had the packet-mixed-with-water type of hot chocolate, I was sorely underwhelmed.  As a kid, I hated it, and I hate it now.  I don’t even want flavored hot chocolates-peppermint, orange zest, and cayenne pepper have no right.  I’ll just take my regular hot chocolate made with milk and Ovaltine or some type of pretentious homemade chocolate syrup, thank you very much.

Until now….Because in case we haven’t yet discussed my obsession with coffee or how I want to own my own cafe someday (we have), I have quite the love affair with all things coffee.  And like my hot chocolate, I don’t want extra added flavors-I want pure, good quality, black coffee, maybe with a little cream and sugar when I have a craving.

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I was fairly skeptical at the idea of mixing together my beloved espresso with hot chocolate.  While I do appreciate a good mocha every once in a while, it’s not usually my cup of tea coffee, and I wasn’t really looking to make a mocha here.  What I really wanted was a creamy hot chocolate with intense cocoa flavor.  Borrowing the idea that sometimes coffee is added to chocolate cake recipes to enhance the cocoa flavor, I decided adding a little espresso to my hot chocolate might to do the same thing.

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I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome.  I will reiterate that this is not a mocha.  The espresso is definitely noticeable, but its main function is to complement the cocoa flavor.  I added some vanilla whipped cream to the top, which melts with the heat, and creates this cool layer on top that mixes in with the hot chocolate, and overall, it was probably my favorite part.  Honestly, I was worried that with only five ingredients, it would be bland, but it was anything but.

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Merry Christmas Eve to you and your family!  Make this hot chocolate when you’re opening presents or having dessert tonight, or even for breakfast tomorrow.  It’s the perfect mix of your favorite childhood drink and your favorite (morning) adult drink, so it will be sure to make everyone happy!

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*Song of the Day: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Frank Sinatra